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Flash: The YIMBY Guide to Bullying…and Its Results--
SB 827 Goes Down in Committee

Zelda Bronstein
Tuesday April 17, 2018 - 09:11:00 PM

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, April 17, SB 827 died in the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee by a 7-4 vote. Senator Nancy Skinner (Berkeley) and Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco), both Democrats and the bill’s sponsors, provided two of only four votes in favor. Republican Senators Morrell and Gaines were the other two yes votes.

The reported drafter of the bill was YIMBY leader Brian Hanlon.

At the hearing, committee Chair Senator Beall acknowledged the civil rights work of former Los Angeles City Councilmember Robert Farrell, who spoke in opposition, and who was one of the signers of the Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance. Beall told Farrell that he and Wiener would now be coming to Los Angeles to address the concerns of the Black community—now that the committee has voted against SB827.

For insight into the effect of their tactics, see this report on YIMBY disruption of a recent San Francisco demonstration by tenant activists:

It’s okay to bully people, as long as they are white; it’s especially okay if they’re white property-owners. These appear to be the lessons that local YIMBYs have drawn from the criticism they received for disrupting the anti-SB 827 rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on April 3. 

Tim Redmond described the scene: 

“The [anti-SB 827] coalition brought some 60 people to the event, with Sup. Aaron Peskin, Sup. Jane Kim, and former Mayor Art Agnos among the speakers. Also represented were leaders of community organizations from the Mission, Chinatown, Cow Hollow and Excelsior, the Sierra Club, the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, and tenants’ rights groups. 

“Things quickly devolved into cacophony, as the outnumbered YIMBYs chanted over every speaker who took the podium. In the merciful pauses between chants, speakers could be heard decrying the projected impacts of the bill. 

“I want to announce that we have the votes!” aid Supervisor Peskin early in the proceedings. Yet chants continued unabated.” 

The Yimbys did more than chant. According to SF Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, District 6 Supervisor candidate and BARF founder Sonja Trauss 

“moved into the crowd and shook her protest sign in the face of an elderly Chinese man, and, in turn, was allegedly shoved by a white woman from the anti-SB 827 crowd. 

Video show sheriff’s deputies escorting Trauss out of the crowd—perhaps not an ideal Kodak moment for her campaign.” 

“’She made physical contact,’” Gen Fujioka, policy director for the Chinatown Community Development Center, told Mission Local reporter Michael Toren. “’I don’t think she was intentionally hitting anybody. But she literally crossed a line that the deputies were trying to keep between the two groups.” 

Fitzgerald Rodriguez also reported that a 

“77-year-old member of a group of Chinese community members was so disturbed by the YIMBY shouting that she later fainted and was ferried by ambulance to Chinese Hospital. 

“ ‘Our members were intimidated by YIMBY. They felt threatened,” said Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association, who spoke at the rally. 

“He said that he has never encountered a counter-rally so vitriolic in 10 years of organizing. Sometimes, counter-rallies are held across the street from an event, or an hour later, but not directly in the faces of community members trying to speak their truth. 

“ ‘I think the YIMBY have no heart,’ Leung said. 

YIMBYs reprimand YIMBYs (sort of) 

YIMBYs and their allies saw a different lack: a failure of tactical shrewdness. On April 3, Irish public policy researcher Peter Gowan tweeted: 

“for the yimbys who follow me – THIS should be your reaction to seeing a counterprotest of mostly white people shout ‘read the bill’ at a crowd of elderly people of colour who are scared of displacement and gentrification. i respect your arguments, but that rally was a disgrace” 

By “THIS,” Gowan was referring to the following tweet from #sharethecities: “If a pro-housing rally in Seattle ever ends up being against a group of poor elder immigrants I'm going to really have to rethink what I’m supporting here.” 

In another April 3 tweet, Gowan advised: “do not aggressively counterprotest tenant organisations even if you disagree with them. it’s a terrible, terrible look, especially if they’re mostly people of colour and your group is mostly white.” 

“The YIMBY delegation,” wrote Redmond, “was overwhelmingly composed of young white men shouting over a diverse speakers at the podium.” 

Tailored chanting 

In an April 4 tweet, YIMBY Action Executive Director Laura Clark justified shouting down wealthy homeowners and city supervisors opposed to the bill. “I don’t think protesting a rally called by a sitting Supervisor who is also a landlord is punching down,” Clark wrote, referencing Aaron Peskin, who led the successful post-rally effort to get the Board of Supervisors to oppose SB 827. 

Fellow YIMBY Alfred Twu, who’s running for the District 8 seat of the Berkeley City Council, tweeted back: 

“I agree: nothing wrong with planning to protest a landlord Supervisor. But when that landlord Supervisor shows up with a group of low income people and your protest team has a higher median income, it helps to adapt and change the approach.” 

That elicited a scintilla of doubt from Clark, who replied: 

“Since there was no way to do income verification at the event, and half of the anti-SB827 folks w’ere [sic] Calvin Welch, Now [sic] Valley Charmers, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, etc, I don’t think you’re being fair. Should we have not chanted during that guys speech? Maybe..” 

The reference to “that guys speech” presumably meant Wing Hoo Leung’s presentation. By the end of the day, Clark had decided that chanting over him was a mistake, while she continued to defend jeering “wealthy homeowners,” as indicated in a letter that she tweeted under the YIMBY Action logo but that does not appear on the organization’s website. Like Clark’s other equivocal apology, this one is worth reading in full: 

“TKI want to apologize for the counter protest we held yesterday in support of SB827. YIMBYs were there to show that there is not unified opposition to this bill, but we should have done so in a more respectful manner. 

“In previous anti-SB827 actions, YIMBYs have come out against wealthy homeowners defending ‘neighborhood character’ and exclusionary zoning. That was part of the crowd there on Tuesday, and we began by reacting against them and chanting over speakers from clubs like the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and against city supervisors opposed to the bill. 

“Then other speakers sought to address their fears of displacement. While we think SB827 will help curb the displacement currently happening in San Francisco and across California, we should have allowed those speakers to voice their opinions. Their fears are legitimate, part of a history where market and government actions in urban planning have actively harmed communities through segregation, disinvestment, redevelopment, and more. 

“It was beyond insensitive to chant over speakers from Chinatown, the Mission, the Western Addition, and the Excelsior—all minority neighborhoods facing gentrification and displacement first-hand. 

“SB827 has provoked controversy around the state. YIMBYs were there to show that there is not unified opposition to this bill, but we should have done so in a more respectful manner, and for that I’m sorry. 

“We did not anticipate the composition of the rally. We should have been respectful to these concerns and tailored our chanting accordingly. For our failure to do that, I apologize wholeheartedly. 

‘’We should have done better. And we will do better in the future. 


“Laura Clark, Executive Director” 

YIMBY sophistry and political thuggery 

Clark’s letter is disturbing, for two related reasons: its sophistry and its political thuggery. 

On the sophistry front: the term “counter protest” evokes a demonstration against opponents. The steps of San Francisco City Hall are very wide; the YIMBYs could easily have stood at one end holding their signs. Instead, they encroached on the anti-SB 827 rally. That’s protest degraded into censorship, an authoritarian approach to politics that’s unacceptable to people who consider themselves democrats with a small “d.” 

As for political thuggery: Clark rationalizes chanting that’s “tailored” to drown out targets that she and her comrades deem illegitimate: wealthy homeowners, landlords, and elected officials who oppose the YIMBY agenda. What chutzpah. What authorizes the YIMBYs to decide who’s politically legitimate and illegitimate? As stated by a petition asking SB 827 author Scott Wiener “to denounce YIMBY disruptive practices”: 

“It is not enough, as YIMBY spokespeople have assured, to change their future disruptive actions to not interrupt speakers if they are “low income people of color.” The YIMBY organization needs to cease silencing critique by and all people.” 

Correct. The democratic way is to engage all comers who are willing to take part in a political fight, which is to say, that fight that eschews violence of whatever sort. Discursively speaking, censorship is violence. 

Contrary to Clark’s bewildering claim that “there is not unified opposition to the bill,” the diverse groups who protested SB 827 on SF City Hall steps stood and stand together. As former LA City Councilmember and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has observed, “This bill has accomplished one thing: It has united tenants’ rights organizations with small business and homeowners, all of whom are rising up against this broad-brush approach.” 

To my knowledge, Wiener himself has never participated in a vigorous head-on debate about SB 827. Guest appearances on KQED’s Forum or at town halls hosted by himself or his acolytes don’t count. He has repeatedly refused to defend his bill at a community meeting in South Central Los Angeles, a brush-off that’s earned him the denunciation of LA’s Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance. Similarly, SB 827 co-author Nancy Skinner failed to show up at a March meeting of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club at which she was supposed to face her constituents’ questions about the legislation. 

In shunning debate, the YIMBYs are only following Wiener’s and Skinner’s deplorable lead. 













Black Community Writes in Opposition to SB827

Monday April 16, 2018 - 10:57:00 PM

The progressive opposition to the Wiener-Skinner SB827 continues to grow. With hearings in Sacramento scheduled to start tomorrow, L.A.'s Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance has sent a letter opposing it to Democratic legislators. It begins:

"On this day in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act, a triumph of the civil rights movement that was achieved through the ultimate sacrifice of our leaders, we write to express our justifiable concern that State Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) declined to accept our invitation to attend a forum in South Los Angeles sponsored by our Black alliance to hear directly from the Black people who would be most harmed by his draconian housing bill, SB 827. The bill has been called “Urban Renewal 2.0” and we share that assessment. Our united Black front is firmly and unequivocally opposed to SB 827, and maintain that Sen. Wiener’s declining to meet with us in the Black community who would be most impacted is both morally untenable and politically shortsighted."

Read the full letter, three pages long and very emphatic, here .

SB 827 Hurts California Renters and Must Be Defeated

Gayle McLaughlin, former Mayor of Richmond, candidate for Lt. Governor of California
Monday April 16, 2018 - 10:36:00 PM

Creating more affordable housing for California renters is one of the biggest tests facing our state. As your Lieutenant Governor, I’ll be committed to finding and helping to enact solutions to this generational housing crisis.

But what I won’t support is any bill that makes the situation even worse. That is why I am opposing SB 827. 

Everyone knows we need to see more affordable housing built across our state. But instead of doing that, SB 827 enables developers to build enormous apartment buildings, enriching landowners while offering zero guarantee that the units will be affordable to working people. 

From San Francisco to Los Angeles, vocal opposition to this bill is growing, and for good reason. Everyone knows we need to see more affordable housing built across our state. But instead of doing that, SB 827 enables developers to build enormous apartment buildings, increasing density and transforming our urban landscape while offering zero guarantee that the units will be affordable to working people. 

It’s the trickle down theory of housing development – that if more luxury apartments get built, eventually more housing will become available to low and middle income renters as well. But like trickle down economics, this is just a lie. I’m not buying it and neither is the growing coalition of community groups and cities across our state that stand opposed to the legislation. 

I absolutely support the idea of building more housing around public transit. In the City of Richmond, where I was Mayor, we did precisely that and built around Richmond BART in our downtown which succeeded in getting more people out of their cars. More development is also planned in downtown which will spur economic development in the area. Richmond could provide a model for other cities to follow, provided that new housing includes a significant amount of below market rate housing, especially low-income and very low-income housing, and also includes protections that prevent displacement. 

But SB 827 doesn’t do that. Fact is, this bill does more harm than good. Beyond failing to solve the affordability crisis, it also takes decision-making power away from our cities and centralizes it in the Capitol. Big corporations know they can get away with profiting from – but not improving – our communities when they have state law on their side. We can’t let this happen. 

Stand with me, ACCE, and community organizers across California in saying no to SB 827, no to displacement and no to developer greed. It’s time to start over with a bill that values the working people of our cities

Kale Unmasked

Carol Denney
Monday April 16, 2018 - 12:17:00 PM

Seen a lot of kale at potlucks lately? 

The Neo-Con Hordes Return to Berkeley on the First Anniversary of Uproar

Tree Fitzpatrick
Monday April 16, 2018 - 10:40:00 PM

While waiting for the Amazon staff to give me a package, I rolled my scooter over to an outlet. I was facing onto Lower Sproul. Right across the plaza from the Amazon store was Amber Cummings (I think that is her name). She was wearing the same cheap wig she uses to hide her identity, the same sunglasses. She was seated on a bench with a man. It looked to me like she was waiting for her people. And I had nothing better to do so I waited to see what happened.

One by one, other neo-cons (nazis in my view, racists one and all, in my view) walked up. They all stood up for each arrival, shook hands and then gave one another big bear hugs. All very manly. Then a few women arrived.  

One gal, who looked older than me (I am 64), like maybe 70, with cheap drug store bleached blonde hair, was wearing a motorcycle jacket. She thrust her chin out as if she was a guard on duty to protect the arriving creeps. Then a tiny woman, forty-ish and also cheaply dyed bottle blonde hair showed up in an American flag jacket. Both these chicks looked like biker babes looking to rumble. I am expressing free speech here, I note.  

And then, although I am not 100% certain, I believe Kyle Chapman arrived. Someone that everyone else in the biker-like gang of toughs seemed to look up to, arrived, Handshakes and hugs all around and then the guy in the trimmed beard gave a little talk, a pep talk. By this time, I had rolled out of the union and over to the bulletin board a few feet from the neo-cons who were leaders in the Battles in Berkeley last year. Almost as soon as I arrived, too late, the nasty pranksters (again, free speech for me) moved en masse down to the Sather Gate. Some of the women took off jackets to reveal their red white and blue outfits, some only in red. Men and women unfurled flags, American and Neo-con/Alt-right (who cares what they call themselves?). 

I followed them down to Sather Gate, watched them pose for some photos. I rolled back towards Bancroft and I overheard two different men on cell phones who seemed connected to the nutjobs, asking "where are you? why didn't you wait for me?" Then I watched as these two men, individually, glanced around until they spotted the gang, now lead by the Kyle-maybe guy and Amber. 

The gang of alt right fascists walked slowly and quietly back down to Bancroft, then walked south on the west side of Telegraph down to Durant. They were walking in a long line of pairs and triples but treading lightly, not saying much. I know because I rolled down the east side of Telegraph to see where they were headed. 

When they got to Durant several pointed to the entrance into the building where Revolution Books is located. I heard Amber say, as she pointed west on the south side of Telegraph "Revolution Books is that way." 

For no reason, I was afraid to openly tail these humans I believe are thugs so I zipped down to Channing, believing I could get to Revolution Books from that entrance. Alas, I could not. So I zipped around the block and went into Revolution Books for the first time. The two people working at Revolution Books were out in the hall of their small shopping mall, puzzling over the neo-nazi gang that had just, silently, with heads averted as if they didn't want to be noticed, passed Revolution Books. 

The conservative gang went to the elevators and were not seen again. 

Why were they (or still are) in Berkeley today? Today is the one-year anniversary of the Battle of Berkeley. The College Republicans are hosting a conservative speaker on Tuesday. Maybe Amber's gang were strategists for whatever they (I use the trendy, gender neutral pronoun deliberately, I reference Amber) has planned for Tuesday. 

Or were they here hoping to see others protesting so they could start fights and blame liberals for the fights? If they were looking for action, they found none. As I zipped around, I pointed out the 'stars' of the alt-right who were stalking our fair city and university this afternoon, I pointed out the nazis to many, especially to street vendors on Telegraph. 

The folks at Revolution Books told me the group had passed them in complete silence, with all their heads averted away from the bookstore, as if hoping not to be noticed. 

What was this conservative, racist gaggle here for today? 

I am sharing my reconnaissance because I'd like to let Amber and her gang know they were spotted and notice was taken by many (with, ahem, my reconnaissance). Amber, you are too well known to folks in Berkeley who actually do care about free speech and nonviolence​, to hang out on Sproul Plaza, gather with your neo-con gang and not get noticed. Then walk down Telegraph in your mistaken belief that you did so unobtrusively. You were seen! 

And what the heck was this visit about? 

I considered checking out People's Park, to see if the gang went there after passing Rev Books, but my mobility scooter does not like Berkeley hills and it was running out of juice. Maybe I should tag team with another disabled scooter rider with walkie talkies?​ I wonder if this gaggle of aggresive, often violent, group of humans were strategizing something for later in the week. Or even later today, Sunday?! 

And, if I may, I offer some advice for Amber: invest in a better wig. This will help you move anonymously, at least for one neocon adventure. And your cheap bad wig does not do you justice. [This is me again, exercising my first amendment rights, but, hey, between us 'girls', you know I'm right.]. And consider a new blouse for your missions in disguise as Amber: the one you had on today did not cover your gigantic tummy very well. Again, free speech, Ambie.



Bothsidesism Won't Solve Berkeley's Housing Problems

Becky O'Malley
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:33:00 AM

In many Berkeley households, including some I know well, you’d expect to find a little shrine with a picture of Paul Krugman and perhaps a few votive lights and a vase of flowers. No, he’s still very much alive, but that’s how much respect he gets among certain kinds of local progressives. And it’s generally well deserved, but not always.

Friday’s New York Times column is a good example of Professor Krugman at his best. It’s a bracing rant against press coverage that portrays the retiring Paul Ryan as a serious conservative intellectual—as if!

The Krugman-popularized coinage “bothsidesism” is deployed to good effect.

From a previous column, here’s his definition:”bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.”

It’s a more colloquial version of the formal usages “false dichotomy” and “false equivalency”— what he calls in Friday’s column “ideological affirmative action.”

Yes. On the mark as usual.

But it pains me to recall the several instances in the past couple of years when I’ve been annoyed with the good professor’s own bothsidesism on a topic which he doesn’t seem to know much about: local land use in the coastal West. 

[Parenthetical disclaimer: I am aware that Monty Python is now in charge of the federal government, the EPA is being dismantled, and we’re going to war with—Syria? Russia? North Korea? But what can we do about those problems today except help some not-so-bad Democrats get elected in the fall? Back to the small stuff…where will everyone who loves being in Northern California live?] 

From his April 2 column on economic polarization and the rise of Trump: 


“I’m not saying that everything is great in coastal cities: Many people remain economically stranded even within metropolitan areas that look successful in the aggregate. And soaring housing costs, thanks in large part to Nimbyism, are a real and growing problem. Still, regional economic divergence is real and correlates closely, though not perfectly, with political divergence. [emphasis added.]  


No. Soaring housing costs, especially in the area I know well, the Bay, are not caused by current residents saying Not In My Back Yard. (By the way, NIMBY,now used pejoratively, was coined by those brave housewives whose back yards abutted Love Canal’s toxic waste dump.) 

Do “studies show” anything about whether dreaded NIMBYs have caused Bay Area housing shortages? 

Here’s just one good one: A recent paper from Thomas Davidoff at the University of British Columbia analyses the details: Supply Constraints Are Not Valid Instrumental Variables for Home Prices Because They Are Correlated With Many Demand Factors 

Even the title is way too long-winded for this venue, but I’ll make it even worse by quoting the abstract: 

“Economists sometimes assume that strictly regulated housing markets near mountains and oceans are expensive because they are costly places to build, not because they are nice places with productive firms and workers. U.S. data show this convenient assumption to be false. Housing supply has grown more in supply-constrained markets than elsewhere over recent decades, indicating constraints are correlated with demand growth. Supply constraints are highly correlated with productivity proxies such as historical education levels, immigration, and national employment growth in locally prevalent industries. The correlation between constraints and productivity growth invalidates common uses of constraints as part of instrumental variables for home prices. The relationship between supply constraints and price volatility is much weaker after accounting for observable demand factors. [Emphasis added]”
In ordinary language, he’s just saying that the Cliff Notes version of supply-side economics doesn’t tell you much about housing. Even though the nicer places to live in the Bay have been increasing their housing supply, that hasn’t reduced demand for housing in such areas. Why would that be? 

I’m no economist, but my experience in law, journalism and high tech (not to mention high school debating) tells me that you can always select “studies” to “show” almost anything you want to prove rhetorically. This one paper might not be the last word on the housing situation, but Davidoff’s on to something. 

To figure out what’s not working here in the Bay Area, and what might fix it, “further research is necessary”. 

But the dimensions of the problem can be described by one of my favorite science words: multifactorial. 

Professor Davidoff’s paper says “Supply constraints are highly correlated with productivity proxies such as historical education levels, immigration, and national employment growth in locally prevalent industries.” 

Sounds kinda like Professor Krugman’s “regional economic divergence is real and correlates closely, though not perfectly, with political divergence”, doesn’t it? Think about it for a moment. 

It’s just sloppy to tag the Bay’s housing problems as NIMBY vs. YIMBY. That is, in fact, bothsidesism at its worst. It’s more complicated than that. 

A more measured and complex look at solving housing problems can be found in a recent piece in The Guardian by Matt Bruenig, head of a think-tank, the People’s Policy Project (3P). He says: 


“The debate about how to resolve our nation’s housing crisis is stuck in a frustrating rut. One side of the divide, calling themselves yimbys (Yes in my back yard), say we should allow private developers to build more housing units. On the other side of the divide are anti-gentrification campaigners who maintain that unleashed private developers will construct luxury housing that pushes up neighborhood rents and displaces local residents. What makes this debate so intractable is that both sides have a point.”  


His op-ed, Why we need social housing in the US”, is based on a recent paper by 3P which proposes “that municipal governments across the country build millions of units of social housing. An influx of publicly owned, efficiently built apartments would add to the housing supply while minimizing the displacement risks caused by luxury developments.” 


Examples are drawn from cities and countries in Europe and Asia where governments build and own housing which combines income levels so that revenues from the more prosperous residents partially subsidizes their lower-income neighbors. 

The paper’s only been out for about a week, but already a member of Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Committee has been working on applying the interesting theories in this paper to local needs. An early draft of his ideas can be found here. 

Several important factors in the discussion he’s started need special consideration in the Bay. 

1) Our problems are regional rather than municipal, and might need regional solutions. 

2) While we’ve been asleep at the switch speculators, many of them global, have been buying up all the available potential development site and are now just sitting on them. An experienced small-scale investor tells me that almost all of Oakland has been acquired by these interests already. Finding land will be hard. 

3) Municipalities are rapidly (and foolishly) selling off properties they already own to meet immediate cash needs. 

But instead of working directly on housing, developer-bankrolled state legislators like Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner have been trying to change state law to automatically upzone sites near existing though dysfunctional mass transit. This will simply guarantee windfall profits for speculators who buy up such properties and displace current low income residents who are already transit users. This explains why neighborhood activists oppose this program, exemplified by SB 827. 

It would be much better for governmental agencies to acquire the few remaining development sites and run buses to serve them after new residents arrive. 

Here (and it’s really a topic for another day) we should note that the City of Richmond has finally settled its long-running dispute over the immensely valuable and environmentally unique Point Molate property it acquired from the federal government. As reported (and I haven’t finished reading the documents myself) the city has agreed to sell 30% of the property to a private housing developer and split the proceeds with one developer and his Native casino clients who were the plaintiffs in the longstanding litigation. What an opportunity for all-income social development, owned and spear-headed by the city of Richmond, this property would offer, but the terms of the settlement may make this impossible. 

This could be an example of housing development which is not NIMBY vs. YIMBY, which can’t be facilely dismissed by a simple-minded bothsidesism analysis. 

Take a look at these articles in the previous issue, and let us know how you think all-income social housing might work around here: 

Press Release: Richmond Successfully Resolves Point Molate Litigation Richmond City Manager's Office 04-12-2018 

Press Release: Point Molate Litigation Settles Received on behalf of Morrison & Foerster 04-12-2018 

New: All-Income Social Housing: the Solution to Berkeley's Affordable Housing Crisis Thomas Lord, City of Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner 04-10-2018 


And the next time the sainted Dr. Krugman thoughtlessly blames people he unfairly labels as NIMBYs for complex ills caused by the excesses of global capitalism, drop him a line, will you? 









Public Comment

Peaceful Solutions

Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, Australia
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:14:00 AM

The Bible includes the quote 'An Eye for an Eye' and this seems to be the current solution to the problems in Syria but there should be some consideration of the rest of that quote '…But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also' and the Koran adds 'But whoever gives charity, it is an expiation for him'. 

There is already too much sadness from the bombings as no matter where or for what reason, innocent people - often children - are injured or killed. It is still time for talking and diplomacy even if it takes a long time. Many leaders and tyrants have found you cannot beat people into agreement only submission. 

We must all keep looking for peaceful solutions.

Vengeful Alabama to Kill 83-Year-Old Man

Stephen Cooper
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:22:00 AM

Barring intervention by courts or its governor, Alabama will kill an 83-year-old man on April 19; long-incarcerated for the 1989 mail-bomb killings of United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance and civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, Walter Moody, Jr.’s wizened, withered body, will, three decades after his crimes, be strapped to a gurney, pricked with a sharp needle (possibly many, many times), and pumped full of chemicals until he is dead. 

Why? Other than the reactionary, regressive idea of “retribution” – whose flawed moral underpinning is interchangeable with bloodthirsty, wild, wild West revenge – how will justice be served? And, for whom? 

The premeditated, state-sponsored senicide of the most senior of senior citizens on Alabama’s death row won’t make anyone – not anyone in Alabama, and not anyone anywhere in the United States or the world – safer. As I have written elsewhere, the myth that capital punishment – in this instance for an old man at the tail-end of a tortured existence in “hell-on-earth” Holman prison – provides deterrence, is an outmoded shibboleth. No mentally disturbed person intent on a bombing rampage will be dissuaded by Alabama prosecutors’ tri-decade pursuit of Moody’s execution. (As the Tuscaloosa News editorialized in a piece titled “Attempts to carry out the death penalty have gone from bad to worse”: “Thirty years is a long time to wait to die, but the State is persistent. Alabama has spent a lot of money and a lot of energy to usher out these old and infirm inmates before nature takes its course.”) 

Additionally, and arguably most important, Alabama’s unrelenting desire to exact violent vengeance for the deaths of Judge Vance and Attorney Robinson is improper because of: (1) who these champions of justice were, their respective legacies of honor, and the principles of equality their lifework embodied; and (2), because it is undesired by the people whose opinion should matter the most – the family members of the victims – who have spoken publicly about this. 

A crusader for civil rights in the segregated South, Robert Robinson served on the executive board and as general counsel of the NAACP, and so it seems certain he would not favor the death penalty – for Moody, or for anybody – the practice having been hewn from the hell of slavery, subjugation and the suffering of black people. Interviewed for a 2016 essay called “Celebrating Black History: Remembering Robbie Robinson,” Robinson’s widow, Ann, “says she may never know the reason why her husband lost his life to such a heinous crime but she harbors no ill feelings towards Moody. Instead, she’s focused on keeping [her husband’s] memory alive.” 

By the same token, Judge Vance’s wife Helen, who was seriously injured as a result of the bombing that killed her husband, told reporters after Moody’s 1991 conviction in federal court that, “she wouldn’t press for a state death-penalty case” (Helen Vance died in 2010). And recently, in March, Robert Vance, Jr., Judge Vance’s son and a circuit judge in Alabama, told a news reporter: “We achieved peace when [Moody] was convicted,” later saying “he’s not sure what can be gained from the execution of his father’s killer.” This ambivalence and distaste for executing an impotent, likely soon-to-die-anyway old man, would undoubtedly have been shared by his father. For as now-deceased former acclaimed death penalty attorney and law professor Michael Mello wrote about Judge Vance, for whom he clerked, in his book “Dead Wrong: A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment”: “Judge Vance personally did not believe in capital punishment; if he were a legislator he would vote against it; if he were an executive he would commute death sentences; and if he were a Supreme Court Justice, he might well hold it unconstitutional. Robert Vance’s personal opposition to capital punishment was genuine and heartfelt . . . . He did not believe that the death penalty was a proper form of punishment[.]” 

Which brings us full-circle to the questions I posed earlier: Why is Alabama intent on killing an octogenarian who can no longer hurt anyone? And, who on God’s good earth will benefit from such ghastliness? 

For as renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian Lewis Smedes once powerfully observed: “The problem with revenge is that it never evens the score. It ties both the injured and the injurer to an escalator of pain. Both are stuck on the escalator as long as parity is demanded, and the escalator never stops.” This is why Sir Francis Bacon once counseled that “[i]n taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.” 

If Alabama does not spare Mr. Moody, this time-tested wisdom, together with whatever honor and capacity for human dignity that exists within the office of Alabama’s governor, its Department of Corrections, and its Office of the Attorney General, will be lost.  


Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq

A Question Needing to Be Asked

Bruce Joffe
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:27:00 AM

James Comey is about to begin a publicity tour through many news and entertainment shows, to promote his book. I hope the interviewers ask him why he thought it inappropriate to reveal that Trump had been under FBI investigation since July 2016, while he revealed, 11 days before the election, that another investigation of Hillary was beginning. The asymmetry reeks of partisanship. Given the micro-targeted thin margins which handed Electoral victory to a morally depraved psychopath in thrall to a foreign power, there is no forgiving Comey. He helped elect the most dangerous, unfit president of our lifetimes.

Titles Titilate, Content Defies, Left Bamboozled: the protracted rocky ride of Berkeley's Surveillance Ordinance

Jane Welford-Executive Secretary for SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing for Liberty Defense)
Gene Bernardi-Representative for Veterans For Peace East Bay Chapter 162
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:16:00 AM

Do the titles Surveillance Ordinance or Police Accountability arouse your interest? 

Many Civil Rights groups and First and Fourth Amendment buffs interests were aroused. Last Fall twenty-seven (27) organizations endorsed Berkeley's proposed Surveillance Use...Ordinance. (Similarly, initiative petitions for Police Accountability have stirred the excitement of progressives-see third to last paragraph.) 

However, since Fall 2017 the Surveillance Technology Use...Ordinance has been scheduled then postponed on no less than five (5) Berkeley City Council agendas (12/5/17, 1/23, 1/30, 3/13, and 3/27/18) finally being addressed on 3/13 and 3/27/18. This was after the submission, often on the very day of the meeting, of several revised versions of the original Santa Clara County Board's 2016 Surveillance Ordinance upon which Berkeley's was based. Berkeley's Surveillance Ordinance signed 3/29/18 by Mayor Jesse Arreguin is slated to become effective 4/29/18. 

Several of the twenty-seven (27) organizations who endorsed the Berkeley initial Surveillance Ordinance version, such as the National Lawyers Guild, Asian Law Caucus, ACLU, TURN, and Electronic Frontier Foundation have lawyers on their staffs. Were these endorsing organizations alerted to the changes that took place in the ensuing versions of the original Surveillance Ordinance which they endorsed? If not, they should compare the Surveillance Technology Ordinance adopted 3/27/18 with that presented to them for endorsement in the Fall of 2017. 

Councilmember Ben Bartlett reminded other City Councilmembers at a recent meeting that the whole purpose of a Surveillance Technology Ordinance is to protect community members' privacy and civil rights and civil liberties guaranteed by U.S. and California Constitutions. But it is in those very sections of the Ordinance referring to these rights, that major changes weakening the Ordinance were made, quite likely affecting its enforceability. For example: 

· Purposes (originally Findings) (emphases below added) 

o The City’s duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its community members now reads; the City’s interest in protecting those rights. 

o “ Legally enforceable safeguards…must be in place to protect civil rights and civil liberties before any surveillance technology is acquired or deployed” has been changed to read “legally enforceable safeguards…are important in the protection of civil rights and civil liberties.” 

· Under Determination by City Council that Benefits Outweigh Costs and Concerns (emphases below added) 

o “that the proposal will appropriately safeguard civil liberties and civil rights…” now reads in the adopted ordinance “…that the proposal will appropriately safeguard civil liberties and civil rights to the maximum extent possible...”. 

· In the Definitions section (emphases below added) 

o Under “Surveillance Acquisition Report” (Formerly Impact Report) (e) Mitigation has been altered with respect to its effect on (d) Impact. In the initial Fall 2017 version Mitigation: reads “information regarding specific, affirmative technical and procedural measures…will be implemented to appropriately safeguard the public from any Impact identified in subsection (d);”. The Impact of concern in (d) is that “on civil liberties and civil rights including but not limited to potential disparate or adverse impacts on any communities or groups.” 

The adopted Surveillance Technology Ordinance weakens the definition of Mitigation by eliminating the words specific and affirmative, and substituting the word can for will. 

o Under the definition of “Surveillance Technology in the paragraph ‘“Surveillance Technology” does not include’ have been added at least six (6) technologies not listed in the original Surveillance Ordinance. Now included as not Surveillance technology are City-issued cell phones provided by the City Police Department to each police officer to be used in conjunction with Body-Worn Cameras which are considered Surveillance Technology. The cell phones were issued after Body-Worn Cameras were approved for use by both the Police Review Commission and the City Council. PRC members have raised questions regarding the purpose and function of these cell phones. 

o An entire new section of Technology, not to be considered as such, has been added to the adopted ordinance. It is named “Cybersecurity capabilities, technologies and systems used by the City of Berkeley’s Department of Information Technology”. This essentially removes an entire department’s involvement in surveillance from review by City Council. For instance: the Geographical Information System (GIS) originally referred to as the Homeland Security Data Server Project. The GIS is connected to Federal Intelligence Agencies, such as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), and is critical to providing comprehensive geospatial information to the federal, state, local and military organizations responsible for Homeland Security missions. (such as ICE?) 

The adopted final version of Berkeley’s Surveillance Ordinance, unlike the Santa Clara County ordinance, downgrades the importance of public input. The phrase “give significant weight to public input” has been eliminated from Berkeley’s Purposes section. 

Also in Berkeley’s final version referral to the “appropriate reviewing Commission” (emphasis added) has been removed from both the Temporary Acquisition and Use of Surveillance Equipment and the Oversight Following City Council Approval sections. The former section allows the City Manager to use Surveillance Technology in Exigent circumstances without City Council approval, but must provide written notice of such acquisition or use to the City Council (but again the words “and to an appropriate commission” have been removed). 

In contrast, the Santa Clara County Surveillance Technology…Ordinance adopted by their Board May 2016, in their Findings section, devotes a long paragraph to the California Constitution’s provision that all people have an inalienable right to privacy. In that paragraph they state “the Board finds it essential to have an informed public discussion before deploying surveillance technology…”. 

As mentioned earlier, the initiative petitions exhorting Police Accountability have stirred the excitement of progressives who want a more powerful Berkeley Community Police Review Board. Will progressives jump on the consensus bandwagon and override a thorough analysis of the petition’s content for its actual viability and effectiveness? 

The Veterans For Peace, East Bay Chapter and SuperBOLD wrote the City Council in 2017 stating that they were strongly in favor of a Surveillance Ordinance that truly protects the privacy, free speech and assembly rights of the Berkeley community. They indicated this would not be possible if only new technology was reviewed for possible acquisition; that all existing surveillance programs, which may or may not involve technology (e.g. Undercover Criminal Intelligence Officers for Infiltrating a Non-target Group) must all be reviewed by the Council to determine the advisability of their continuance depending on their effect on our privacy, our civil rights and civil liberties. 

To truly protect our privacy, free speech, assembly, civil rights and liberties we must demand our City Council detach itself from a national police network headed by ‘America’s top cop’ the arch-racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Berkeley must sever itself from a militarized surveillance state. To achieve this the City Council must vote against the renewal of two programs: the FBI run Northern California Regional Intelligence Program (NCRIC), which places Terrorism Liaison Officers, sworn to secrecy, in our local police departments, and the Department of Homeland Security program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, which funds Urban Shield’s urban warfare training and military equipment such as armored tanks; In Berkeley called a Specially Equipped Panel Van


THE PUBLIC EYE:Another Look at Trump Supporters

Bob Burnett
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:06:00 AM

After reaching a low of 36 percent, Trump's approval rating has gradually inched up to 40 percent (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/). On the Left Coast his (historic) low remains a source of amazement because we rarely hear anyone speak favorably of Trump. Nonetheless, after 15 months in office, and a series of epic blunders, Trump has held onto his base. What explains this? 

Until recently, my primary source for understanding Trump supporters was an excellent book by UC Berkeley Sociology professor Arlie Hochshild, "Strangers in Their Own Land." Hochschild conducted a five-year study of Louisiana Tea Party voters who eventually became Trump supporters. Hochschild details their "deep story," a narrative shared by her interviewees: "You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage. You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male... Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line. Most in the back of the line are people of color... Look! You see people cutting in line ahead of you! You're following the rules. They aren't. As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back... Who are they? Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers -- where will it end?" 

There's a blues song with the title, "I've been down so long that down looks like up to me." It seems to me that the voters Hochschild interviewed have been screwed over for so long that they're profoundly disoriented. Grasping for a lifeline, they latched onto Trump. 

Recently, academics have studied this phenomenon. In their paper, "Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election" (https://academic.oup.com/socrel/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/socrel/srx070/4825283? ) sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker, and Samuel Perry conclude that for many Trump supporters, "voting for Trump was... a symbolic defense of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage." 

Whitehead, Baker, and Perry used data from the latest Baylor Religion Study (https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pdf ) to unearth the core beliefs of white evangelical Christians -- 80 percent of whom voted for Trump. After controlling for factors such as party affiliation and religiosity, the sociologists identified six questions as measures of Christian Nationalism: The first is "the federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state." Christian Nationalists reject this because they believe that the United States has a special relationship with the Christian God; there's a covenant for a Christian nation. 

While Christian Nationalists reject separation of church and state, they respond positively to these five notions: 

  • “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.”
  • “The federal government should advocate Christian values.”
  • “The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces.”
  • “The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.”
  • “The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”
Christian Nationalists support Trump because they believe he supports these notions. (In addition, the Whitehead, Baker, and Perry study found profound anti-Muslim attitudes among the Christian Nationalists; for example, agreement with the statement, “Muslims endanger the physical safety of people like me.” Trump appears to harbor the same sentiments.) 

That explains why Christian Nationalists have stuck with Trump through 15 tumultuous months in office. In an interview with the Huffington Post ( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/researchers-discover-common-thread-between-evangelicals-who-voted-for-trump_us_5abbd15ae4b04a59a313c5ea) one of the study researchers, Andrew Whitehead, noted that since his election Trump has given Christian Nationalists direct access to the White House and this has led them to forgive his conduct: "They believe God can use anyone, ‘even a thrice married, non-pious, self-proclaimed public playboy,’" to form a Christian nation]. “For Christian nationalists, the end goal is a society that favors Christianity in various aspects... How that project is achieved is of little consequence to them." 

While "Strangers in their own land" doesn't directly address Christian Nationalism, many of Arlie Hochschild's subjects participated in the evangelical Christianity that Whitehead, Baker, and Perry identify as the source of Christian Nationalism. (And Hochschild's subjects who don't seem particularly religious appear to share the same worldview as their neighbors.) 

Two of Hoschschild's observations seem particularly relevant. The first is that the Louisiana Trump supporters have no confidence in government to fix their problems. The second is that they place their confidence in business. Hochschild observed that her subjects "identify up with the 1 percent." They believe that big business, not big government will provide the solutions to their problems, whether they are meaningful employment, healthcare, or environmental pollution. (This derives from the Calvinism that underlies white evangelical Christianity.) They voted for Trump because they saw him as a successful businessman. 

Vice President Mike Pence has an important role because he's a Christian Nationalist (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/gods-plan-for-mike-pence/546569/ ). Pence has been responsible for many of the initiatives that the Christian Nationalists held dear: the effort to flood the courts with conservative judges; the drive to restrict abortion rights and defund Planned Parenthood; the effort to provide Federal funding to church schools; the drive to restrict immigration; etcetera. 

As long as Mike Pence stands by Donald Trump then Trump will have the support of the hard-core component of his base -- Christian Nationalists. And when Pence steps away, and Trump falls, Pence will become President. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: What I Learned in Traffic School in 1989

Jack Bragen
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 09:52:00 AM

My wife is not a hundred percent trusting of my driving. Shortly following the death of my father, I didn't see a stoplight, resulting in the wreck of a very nice car, and minor injuries to me and my wife, as well as the driver of the other vehicle. At the time, I was distracted by grief, and I should not have agreed to take a trip to Walnut Creek to see friends.

Since then, I have cultivated the ability to say "no" to things that seem to be too much, especially that involve driving. I have been in two additional accidents, both of them the fault of the other drivers. It doesn't make much difference if an accident is the fault of the other driver, if I am out of a car, possibly injured, and with an increase in insurance premiums.

In traffic school, in 1989, (the result of a speeding ticket) the instructor emphasized: "Stress will kill you." 

Excessive stress is known to cause numerous health problems, is known to make you accident prone, it can worsen symptoms of mental illness, and it is a miserable way to live. 

Unfortunately, a psychiatric illness can cause higher than average sensitivity to stress. Yet, I have seen numerous people who do not have any psychiatric diagnosis, who have a great deal of difficulty doing things like showing up for a job. Mentally ill people aren't alone in having problems like these. 

Before getting into the driver's seat of a motor vehicle, we'd better be darned certain that nothing is causing us to be impaired. An impairment can be caused by the sedation of some psych medications, it can be caused by symptoms of the illness, it can be caused by lack of adequate sleep and rest, and it can be caused by being emotionally upset. 

Most employers don't have any sympathy for this--this is the nature of the work world. Employers need people who show up, and who perform as expected. If they don't get that they aren't happy. 

However, we must weigh an employer's expectations or anyone's expectations, against driving while possibly impaired. For example, you could have a very important appointment, one that if missed, could have consequences. On the other hand, if circumstances beforehand were to lead up to being massively stressed, you must decide which is more important: staying out of a car wreck, versus complying with expectations. 

Legal and financial complications of "driving while impaired" are severe. 

Preemptively dealing with the above scenario is best. If you have doubts concerning your ability to go somewhere, you should not commit to it. If someone is pressuring you to drive when you would rather not, you should refuse. Wanting to please everyone is not a virtue. When you drive, you are responsible, regardless of people pressuring you or not. 

Yet, I have an additional point to make. Have you heard the cleverness that goes "guilty of driving while black"? Well, it seems that in the modern world populated by numerous ignoramuses, people have a lack of understanding that persons with mental illness are essentially the same as most people, and we are usually capable of handling the responsibility of owning and driving a motor vehicle. 

Recently, one of those ignoramuses was a doctor, who was trying to get a close relative of mine locked up for appearing sedated, and for having a car to drive. 

This is nothing but prejudice and stereotyping of a mentally ill person. This person was perfectly capable as a driver, but because the person didn't come across as "normal" the person was presumed to be dangerous. 

So, while there is reason to be cautious concerning the responsibility of driving, numerous mentally ill people can and should have this privilege. I have driven cars since 1980, and I do just fine at it. I have never been convicted of any kind of reckless driving or DUI offense. In all of that time, close to forty years, I have had about four or five traffic citations, and have been in a few accidents, most of which were the fault of other drivers, and none of which caused a serious injury. Who is to be the "judge" of this? Well, we have courts, we have laws, and our rights aren't supposed to be taken away without due process. 

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump calls out the National Guard

By Ralph E. Stone
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:03:00 AM

On April 5, Trump President Donald Trump signed the presidential memorandum for sending National Guard troops on assignment to the southern border. to "stop illegal aliens from crossing the border.” He seemed to be referring to a caravan of about 1,000 migrants traveling north from Central America he claims are trying to take advantage of DACA, a program they would not even qualify for. 

The people of the "Stations of the Cross” caravan are mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and neighboring Central American countries. These caravans of migrants are an annual event, and go as far back as 2010. Their primary function is to draw attention to the kind of dangers migrants face. 

The 2018 caravan was organized by a humanitarian volunteer group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras. By traveling in such a large group they hope to avoid some of the dangers faced by travelers taking the often perilous route through Mexico to the southern border of the U.S. Many of the caravan travelers are fleeing violence. Of course, a small number did intend to reach the U.S. and seek asylum but the large majority will try to stay in Mexico,  

By calling out the National Guard, Trump is crying wolf. There is no evidence of an imminent influx of asylum seekers. In fact, border crossings have plummeted in the last decade and are at the lowest level since 1971. An April 2018 report by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said the number of unaccompanied migrant children detained along the Mexican border was down 24% from the previous year and the number of detained families dropped 32%. 

Why then has Trump called out the National Guard? Because right-wing columnist and author Ann Coulter accused President Trump of being a “shallow, lazy ignoramus" who is "not giving us what he promised." Coulter attacked him for his failure to build a wall or to gain funding for a wall. Trump is afraid Coulter reflects what his base thinks and by calling out the National Guard, he hopes to strengthen his anti-immigrant stance to appease Coulter and his base. 

Or as Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Border Rights Center put it, "President Trump is trying to create a crisis where there is none. This is another impulsive reaction to not getting his way on his border wall, . .” 

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

By Gar Smith
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:09:00 AM

Ballot Boxers

California's new June 2018 election ballot has just been released and it's landed with a thump. There's a lot (perhaps too much) to choose from—including 27 candidates for governor and 32 contenders for US senator!

The following two listings immediately caught my eye.

(1) The gubernatorial contestant with the best-sounding name: "Thomas Jefferson Cares" (That's both a great name and a campaign slogan).

(2) Wildest name on the ticket for the governor's race: Hakan "Hawk" Mikado. (A name that's ready-made for a crowd-chant!)



Barry Unburied 

America's penchant for associating entertainment with mayhem is on full display nightly on TV in shows like American Crime Story, SWAT, Seal Team, CSI, Criminal Minds and Waco but now we've got a new "dark comedy" with SNL-fave Bill Hader playing a hit-man pursuing a side-gig as an actor. The message of this disturbing blend of homicide and hilarity may be found in Barry's existential question about his seemingly conflicting life-choices: "Why can't I have both?" 

Yes kids, you can be a cold-blooded killer and a warm-hearted entertainer at the same time. 

And, in this spirit, we have the following headline from the SF Chronicle's review of a new drama called "Killing Eve" from the BBC: "Offbeat drama 'Eve' adroitly combines whimsy, killing." 

Grounds for Conviction 

"Darn Ol' Duck" Trump says he wants to attack Syria because the US "suspects" Bashar Al-Assad may have "possibly" committed a "probable" war crime during an "alleged" attack. 

Here's a quick note to the man combat-vet-and-US-Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) calls "Cadet Bone Spurs": 

Bad precedent, Mr. President. 

If attacking someone solely on the basis of suspicion and unproven allegations were sufficient grounds for action, you would have been impeached and clapped in the slammer months ago. 

Why You Can't Base Foreign Policy on a YouTube Video 

A comment tagged to the following video says it all: "This video from 'rebels'-held area in Syria is one of the reasons why you don’t rush into war based on YouTube videos." 


From the flags on the wall, it's fair to assume this video was recorded in Syria. Little more is certain beyond that, although the captions reveal the release was targeted for both English-speaking and Chinese audiences. 

The initial assumption that this is merely a training exercise for school children does not hold up. The children are not being shown survival tactics: they are simply portraying victims. 

Perhaps, then, it's a training experience for the young men wearing gas masks and responding as doctors? It makes sense that the "doctors" would want to practice applying oxygen masks to the children—but there is no medical need to put aside the oxygen masks in order to slather make-up on the children, making it appear they are "foaming from the mouth." 

Uncomfortable conclusion: Perhaps the conspiracy theorists are right. Maybe some of the footage we've seen presented as "evidence of attacks on civilians" has been staged. 

The "Crisis Establishment" and its History of "False Flags" 

Former Congressmember Ron Paul (R-TX) has called out both the Trump and Obama administrations for relying on "false flag" incidents—i.e., staged provocations—to justify US military actions around the world. The risk that an unnecessary confrontation with Russia could trigger a much wider war was the topic of a recent installment of Paul's "Liberty Report." 


Mattis Admits: "No Evidence" to Justify Trump's 2017 Attack on Syria 

Russia's EU ambassador has called reports of a chemical attack in Syria a "staged event." 

Even a growing portion of Trump's Alt-right supporters have called the alleged Syrian attack a "false flag" operation—designed to keep US troops in Syria. 

Chemical weapons experts Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, Gareth Porter and Theodore Postol all question the "official" US narrative that Assad employed deadly gas. Even Defense Secretary James Mattis now admits the US had "no evidence" that Assad used chemical weapons in 2017. (But that didn't stop Trump from attacking Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles.) 

Maybe Trump Could Just Threaten to Sue Assad for Libel 

Now Trump appears prepared to launch another attack on Syria. Almost simultaneously, he tweets "open area immediately for medical help and verification" while warning "Missiles are on the way." 

It looks like Trump doesn't want evidence: with the Mueller investigation closing in, he wants a distraction. 

Meanwhile, Here's a Verifiable Crime 

While we don't yet know with certainty what happened in Douma—or who was responsible—we do know for a certainty that Israel attacked Syria without warning (or pretext) and wound up killing 14 people, including four Iranian nationals. With Russian forces hovering nearby, it's starting to look like the Syrian conflict could become "the war to end all wars"—by bringing an end to all life on Earth. 

Fox Bites Trump over Threat to Attack Syria
Talk about a rare voice of reason from an unexpected source: Fox News has challenged Washington's rush to war over Syria. 

Fox commentator Tucker Carlson recently eviscerated the argument that the US "must attack Syria," pointing to the blowback from other US interventions—in Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. 


Trump's 180-degree turn from his campaign promise to end unwinnable foreign wars and put the needs of American voters "first" has left many of his supporters lost and confused. This raises the unlikely prospect for bipartisan collaboration to challenge the War Machine. 

At the same time, however, Democracy Now! and The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald have drawn criticism from the anti-war left for endorsing the mainstream media's still-unsubstantiated claim that Assad is responsible for the attack in Douma.  

Please, can't we all just get along?

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Tom Hunt and Bonnie Hughes
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 05:25:00 PM

To learn what's happening on Berkeley's arts scene, you can now reach the Berkeley Arts Festival Calendar directly from the Planet. You can then click on an individual date for a full description of every event on that day.

To reach the calendar, click here.

Preview: Souad Massi to Sing at Fort Mason April 20

By James Roy MacBean
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 09:57:00 AM

From the Kabyle mountains of Algeria by way of Paris, female singer-songwriter Souad Massi will appear Friday, April 20, at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason. This will be her first Bay Area appearance in more than ten years for the 46 year-old Algerian Berber who has become a genuine superstar in world music scene. Souad Massi began her career singing in the Kabyle political rock band Atakor, before leaving Algeria following a series of death threats. When I spoke to her by telephone, Souad indicated that she prefers to leave these events of long ago in a bygone past. She visits her family every year in Algeria and has given several concerts there in recent years.  

Once settled in Paris, Souad Massi honed her own unique musical style which includes pulsating Berber rhythms, quite a bit of flamenco (similar to the remarkable music on the CDs entitled Flamenco Arabe put together by Hossam Ramzy), occasionally a hint of Portuguese Fado, and even a nod to the classic French chanson. Souad Massi also sings occasionally in English, and she is likely to offer a song or two in English in San Francisco.  

In addition to providing vocals, Souad Massi also plays guitar. With her CDs, Raoui (2001), Deb (2003), Mesk Elil (2005), Ô Houri (2010), and El (2015), Souad Massi has won a vast audience worldwide. We are indeed fortunate to have Souad Massi making her first local appearance here, and in the same week that Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura performs 4/12-15 at San Francisco Jazz Center. For her Fort Mason appearance on 4/20, Souad Massi will share the program with Kiran Ahluwalia, an Indian singer-songwriter who melds Indian rhythms, African desert blues and western musical styles. Don’t miss this major event in world music!

New: Armenian State Chamber Choir Performs in Berkeley

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday April 15, 2018 - 11:14:00 AM

On Saturday, April 14, Cal Performances presented the Armenian State Chamber Choir in a concert at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Founded in 2000, The Armenian State Chamber Choir has a primary mission of performing the great choral works of Armenian composers and sharing them with audiences in Armenia and worldwide. The Armenian State Chamber Choir is directed by Robert Mlkeyan. The choir is renowned for their brilliant renditions of works by Komitas (1869-1935), the father of Armenian classical music. On the program here were several works by Komitas: the choral song “Holy, Holy,” a lively suite of Rustic Wedding Songs, the song “Rise Up!,” the song “O Mountains, Bring Breeze,” the boisterous “Plowing Song of Lori,” and “Spring,” set to a poem by Hovhannes Hovanisyan. Whether steeped in the rich folklore of Armenia or inspired by the pious faith of Komitas, these songs amply demonstrated the musical genius of Komitas, who, when he performed some of his works in Paris, was saluted as a musical genius by Claude Debussy. Among the highlights of this evening was the “Plowing song of Lori,” robustly sung by tenor Razmik Baghdasaryan and basses Hovhannes Grogorian and Mavrik Mkrtchyan. 

Also on the program were works by other Armenian composers. Opening the concert was a hymn for Lent by Mesrop Mashtots (362-440), “I kneel Before You.” Next came the beautiful song “The Bird,” by Grikor Narekatsi, (951-1003), gorgeously sung by soprano Sofya Syadyan, whose lovely voice imitated the warbling of the turtle-dove. Sofya Syadyan, by the way, was also featured in the suite of Rustic Wedding Songs by Komitas. It was her bright soprano that was heard in The Bride’s Farewell addressed to her mother and sister.  

Rounding out the first half of the program was a “Song for Athena” by English composer John Tavener (1944-2013) and “Three Sacred Hymns” by German-Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). After intermission came a religious work by Armenian composer David Haladjian (b. 1962). His Missa Memoria is set to a Latin text, though the Catholicism of the Armenian Church follows the Armenian Orthodox Liturgy. David Haladjian was present at the performance and was invited onstage by Robert Mlkeyan to take a bow following the performance of his Missa Memoria.  

Following Haladjian’s mass was a gorgeous Lullaby by American composer David Elder (b. 1986) from Three Nocturnes. Then we heard Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on this Shining Night,” set to a poem by James Agee. Closing the scheduled program were four Armenian Folk Tunes arranged by Robert Mlkeyan. The final song, “Maral,” a love song, ended with a hearty male shout. As an encore, Mlkeyan led the choir in his own arrangement of a Beatles song with the refrain, “You were only waiting for this moment to arrive.” This was a fitting end note to a concert that was long in the planning and much anticipated by the local Armenian diaspora community, which filled the First Congregational Church.

Ana Moura at SF Jazz

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 10:01:00 AM

Where Fado is concerned, I’m very much a traditionalist. I first heard Fado in 1963 in Lorenço Marques (now Maputo), capital of the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique. Inquiring of a Portuguese shopkeeper where I could hear good Portuguese music, he directed me to a Fado club called A Toca. My wife and I arrived early and were seated in a small, darkly lit room. Soon a middle-aged woman dressed in black with a long black shawl appeared, accompanied by a middle-aged man with a 12-string Portuguese guitar. Together, these two musicians poured out their hearts and souls for an hour and-a-half in songs steeped in saudade, the Portuguese word for longing and melancholy for what might have been. They used no microphone and were unamplified; yet in this small room their music rang out with a clarity of passionate intensity. I was instantly hooked on Fado.  

Later, I bought up records by Portugal’s greatest 20th century Fadista, Amália Rodrigues. She, too, sang the purest traditional Fado. Granted, the songs of Amália Rodrigues were not all steeped in melancholy. Perhaps twenty percent of her songs were upbeat and celebratory of the joy of living. But this, after all, is just the flip side of saudade. Life may bring pain and disillusionment at times, but it may also bring occasional joy. Amália Rodrigues, who died in 1999, presented both sides of the Fado experience.  

In recent years, Fado has enjoyed something of a fashionable renaissance. Singers such as Ana Moura, Mariza, Misia, and Cristina Branco, to name only a few, have revived interest in Fado, not only in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries but worldwide. With her early albums, Aconteceu (2004), Para Além da Saudade (2007), and, Leva-me aos Fados (2009), Ana Moura gained worldwide attention as a true Fadista, perhaps the youngest and brightest star of a Fado renaissance. Indeed, so widespread was her fame that Ana Moura caught the attention of The Rolling Stones and Prince, who invited her onstage in several of their respective international gigs. Perhaps all this attention went to her head. Or perhaps like Mariza, Ana Moura saw that she could reach a much wider audience by branching out from Fado and singing pop songs and rock songs accompanied not only by Portuguese guitar and acoustic guitar but also by electric keyboard and a trap drum set.  

What a pity! I’d even go further and say, what a disaster! Two years ago, Ana Moura’s concert at Nourse Theatre was, in my opinion, nothing but a disaster! She was over-amped to the point of distorting her lower range, and her use of electric keyboard and a trap drum set seemed to me to be pandering to the lowest common denominator. Well, this week Ana Moura is back in San Francisco with what seems to be the same group of musicians, and her opening concert on Thursday evening, April 12, at the San Francisco Jazz Center was only marginally better than her disastrous concert at Nourse Theatre. Here too she was over-amped, rendering her dark, somewhat husky lower range quite distorted. (I couldn’t even understand more than a few words she spoke to the audience in English much less any of the Portuguese.) She and her group performed for an hour-and-a-half without intermission, and there were only three traditional Fado songs out of fifteen. A low point was reached when midway through the show Ana Moura left the stage to do a costume-change, leaving her band to play a tedious rock morsel complete with screeching electric keyboard and an interminable drum solo. When this musical monstrosity was over, the man who happened to be sitting next to me leaned my way and said, “At moments like this drum solo, Indian audiences wisely get up and go out for chai.” I felt like retorting that I’d seek something stronger than chai to wash the taste of this drum solo from my mouth and ears. The only real highpoint of this show came, predictably, when the keyboard player and drummer left the stage, and Ana Moura launched into a mournful Fado lament backed only by Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass guitar.  

Nearly the entire second half of the concert, except for her rendition of the Rolling Stones song “Brown Sugar,” was devoted to Ana Moura, clad now in a floor-length sheath dress of shimmering silver full of sequins, as she shimmied and shook her booty while strutting to a series of upbeat dance tunes. Oh, by the way, there was a new wrinkle in this concert: video images were sporadically projected on a huge screen above the stage during her songs. These images, some still some moving, some abstract and animated, some more or less representational, bore almost no relation to the songs except when they showed people’s legs and feet dancing while we listened to Ana Moura sing upbeat dance tunes. Please, we don’t need or want visual stimulation of this sort. We want to see and hear only the act of musical creation, and the intensity we seek is in the music of traditional Fado. To Ana Moura I say, “Please, don’t come back to San Francisco until and unless you’re ready to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. You are a great Fado singer, and that’s what we want and expect from you, not crossover slop. 

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, April 15-22

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday April 14, 2018 - 09:46:00 AM

The charter for the Police Review Commission (PRC) is 40 years old and in need of significant updating which can only be done through ballot initiative. Berkeley Community United for Police Oversight is gathering signatures for their proposal. The Police Review Commission Reform Subcommittee is preparing an alternate proposal which also addresses the current Police Review Commission weaknesses. The PRC alternative is targeted to be completed this coming week by the reform subcommittee in time for a full PRC Commission vote on April 25.

The Transportation Commission on Thursday will be taking action on new signage at Berkeley City limits. Proposed language: “Welcome to Berkeley” “LOVE LIFE” “Sanctuary City” “Ohlone Territory”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated/landmarked the Campanile Way View as a significant element on April 5. On Thursday April 19 the Design Review Committee will be reviewing the preliminary design for the proposed 18-story 274 unit building at the Walgreen’s site corner of Shattuck and Allston which blocks about 50% of the view. As of Nov 28, 2017, Berkeley (construction completed or in progress) overbuilt market rate/luxury priced units by 405 and underbuilt all levels of affordable housing units by 1335.

City Council April 24 meeting agenda available for comment. Council@cityofberkeley.info 31. Allocation Federal Funds, 32. Block Grants, 33. Carbon Free energy, 34. Single use foodware, 36. GoBerkeley Transportation 37. Youth Spirit Artwork Tiny House project, 38 a.& b. Achieving Fair and Impartial Policing, 39. Information – Rapid Rehousing report


The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website.



Sunday, April 15, 2018 

NO! to U.S. Wars march and rally, end Wars at Home & Abroad, Schedule: 

  • 11:00 am – Gather Lake Merritt Amphitheater
  • 11:30 am - rally Lake Merritt
  • 12:30 pm – march from Lake Merritt Amphitheater to Oscar Grant Plaza
  • 1:30 pm – rally at Oscar Grant Plaza

Monday, April 16, 2018 

Civic Arts Commission Public Art Subcommittee, 9:00 am – 10:00 am, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, 


Police Review Commission (PRC) – Commission Reform Subcommittee, Mon, April 16, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, 1947 Center St, Civic Center Annex Building, Chestnut Room 2nd Floor 


City Council Agenda Committee, Mon, April 16, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda: 18. Pilot project to dispense zoning code to build student housing, 20. Investment report Oct1-Dec 31, 2017, 22. Continue banking with Wells Fargo thru 2020, 23. Recommendation from Disaster and Fire Safety Commission Fire and Health Departments to Participate in Urban Shield and UASI trainings, 24 a.&b. Emergency Homeless Shelter, 25. Berkeley Microbond Blockchain Initiative – Pilot Project 


Tax the Rich rally – Mon, April 16, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, RAIN CANCELS 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Mon, April 16, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers 


Commission on Labor – Subcommittee Homeless Youth Policy, Mon, April 16, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, 


Homeless Commission – Youth Policy Subcommittee, Mon, April 16, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, 


Public Works Commission-Paving Subcommittee, Mon, April 16, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm, 1947 Center St, 4th Floor http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Public_Works_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 

Field Users Meeting, Tue, April 17, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2800 Park Street, Frances Albrier Community Center, Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018 

Commission on Aging, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Commission liaisons 


Planning Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 1050 Parker Street rezone, Adeline Corridor Project Update 


Thursday, April 19, 2018 

Police Review Commission (PRC) – Commission Reform Subcommittee, Thur, April 19, Check start time & room location – 9, 9:30 or 10 am, 1947 Center St, Civic Center Annex Building, 


Design Review Committee, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center 

  • 2190 Shattuck Ave – 18 Story mixed use – Walgreen site corner Shattuck & Allston – intrudes into landmarked as significant element Campanile Way View
  • 2028 Bancroft Way/2025 Durant, relocate existing 3-story residential building, construct 6 story-62 foot 37 unit residential building, 2 units in existing parking area

Fair Campaign Practices Commission, 7:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, http://www.cityofberkeley.info/FCPC/ 

Transportation Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: welcome to Berkeley signs http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Transportation_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Friday, April 20, 2018 

Police Review Commission (PRC) – Commission Reform Subcommittee, Mon, April 20, Check start time – 9, 9:30 or 10 am 1947 Center St, Civic Center Annex Building, 


Saturday, April 21, 2018 

Berkeley Earth Day Shoreline Cleanup, Sat, April 21, 9:00 am – 11:30 am, Shorebird Park Nature Center 

Sunday, April 22, 2018 

No City meetings or demonstrations found